Gardener's fury as Preston community orchard 'hacked to pieces'

Martin with the trees
Martin with the trees

A keen gardener who planted a community orchard on the Guild Wheel is furious after council contractors “hacked it to pieces”.

Martin Sutcliffe, 63, has been planting fruit trees on the greenway near his Grimsargh home since 2017.

The gardener, who runs a bicycle shop in Ribbleton, said his aim was to grow an orchard for the benefit of the community.

Martin planted his first apple tree on the Guild Wheel off Longridge Road two years ago.

Since then, he has continued to nurture his orchard and this summer the ‘guerrilla garden’ had begun to bloom with more than 20 apple, cherry and plum trees. But on Tuesday, Martin’s wife Debbie returned home bearing bad news after a walk along the route.

The orchard had been uprooted by council contractors who had been tasked with strimming the overgrown verges along the footpath.

“I couldn’t believe it when my wife came home and broke the news to me”, said a deflated Martin. “All that hard work has been destroyed in a single act of mindless vandalism. And that’s exactly what it is. It’s council-sponsored vandalism, plain and simple”, added Martin.

Confirming that city council staff were undertaking “maintenance on council-owned land”, a spokesman said: “We have contacted the gentleman to discuss the situation and to get to the bottom of the permission for the planting.”